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More tributes to the late, great Coach Lou Henson


Editor’s note: Space restrictions last week didn’t allow us to share all the memories we compiled of the late Coach Lou Henson. More are presented here, and all of them can be seen on our website, www.lascrucesbulletin.com.

A SAD, SAD DAY: For New Mexico State University. A great coach and a truly magnificent person! Rest in peace, Lou Henson. Thank you for who you are and what you have meant to us. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die! – Steve Ramirez, longtime former Las Cruces Sun-News reporter.

Lou Henson. A gentleman in every sense of the word who truly and deeply cared for people and his community. Las Cruces and New Mexico have lost a giant. I'm heartbroken. RIP. – Bill McCamley, New Mexico Secretary of Workforce Solutions.

Rest in peace, Coach Henson. More than a hall of fame coach, Lou Henson never met a stranger and set a wonderful example of how to treat people. Make no mistake, he was fiercely competitive when he stepped on the court. He coached the state House of Representatives team for many years at our charity b-ball game against the Senate. He cared about one thing, winning. My favorite lines from him from an epic halftime speech were “If you keep playing the way you are, you’re going to lose.” (we were winning at the time) and “If you can’t get the job done, I’ll put in someone who can.” (a humorous threat since there were only five or six of us who could play good at all.) I just smiled and thought, I have the honor of being dogged out by hall of fame Coach Lou Henson. Thanks, Coach for all you, Mary and your family have done for our community. – Jeff Steinborn, State Senator, District 36.

I've known Coach Henson since I was in the third grade. He only lived one block away, and my closest classmate was his next door neighbor. He would let me and a few friends shoot baskets in the Pan American Center after the Aggies practiced. This was like in the early 70s. More recently, I had friends holding a huge fundraiser and they purchased like 20 basketballs for auction, and I called Lou and asked him if he would sign each one and he was more than happy to do so, and he did! He was known as the best checker player. I don't think he ever lost. He always remembered me by my first name. -- Patrick Olona, Las Cruces native and lifelong friend of the Henson family.

I remember once Lou Henson brought his Fighting Illini into the old Civic Arena in my neck of the woods in southwest Pennsylvania to take on Pittsburgh. I remember thinking, “What kind of guy wears a bright-orange blazer?” Who knew that one day that same man would invite me to his house here in southern New Mexico for a bowl of chile. And, as we navigated the rows of seats at an arena on the road during his second stint as New Mexico State University’s head coach, he would instinctively put a hand on my elbow so we both would be steady.  Or the time, on national TV, the tipoff went right to me on press row, he joked to me, “Now you’re a star.” Henson was a gentleman and beloved by many for those kinds of stories. As reporters will tell you, you can sniff out a fraud; Henson was genuine. – Brook Stockberger, former editor, Las Cruces Bulletin.

I was fortunate to get to know coach Henson when his lovely wife, Mary, became involved with Tough Enough to Wear Pink—the campaign in which almost all of us in the community were involved. What a gentleman! He did anything and everything we asked of him for TWEP—and that was no small feat. I will always remember his kindness, his willingness to greet and spend time with anyone who wanted a moment of his time and his ability to motivate the young people—both men and women—whom he mentored. An effective leader—in my estimation—is one who leads by example and is not afraid to do what he or she asks of his or her charges. Coach Henson is the epitome of the hero who is disappearing in American society. He will forever live in the hearts of every Aggie or Illini whom he met. More importantly, he took the massive stage that he was given and taught us each how to give an impeccable performance with grace, dignity and respect. He will never be forgotten. He will always be loved. – Audrey Hardman-Hartley, longtime Las Cruces activist and non-profit leader.

I met Coach at a Final Four tourney through NMSU. He, along with a few NMSU alumni went to dinner, and I listened as he told countless stories about his basketball family. What struck me was his warmth and genuine caring about each individual. He made you feel part of that family. NMSU and the people of Las Cruces lost a truly great ambassador for basketball and the entire State of New Mexico. – Scott Bannister, Las Cruces businessman.

Lou Henson